At the October 14 Board Meeting, CUSD Trustees voted (5 to 2) to approve the original 2016-17 calendar, Option A, with the mid-August student start date of August 15, full week of Thanksgiving, first semester ending before Winter Break, and final student day on June 1. The Trustees received many emails regarding this issue, and said that the emails were fairly divided, with a little more for early start than against. There were several people (close to 30) who lined up to speak to this agenda item. Of those, about six spoke against early start. The rest, which included several very articulate high school students, four teachers (three high school and one who spoke for her elementary school staff) and several parents (even parents of elementary students) all spoke to the academic and stress reduction benefits of the early start.
One woman, who spoke to the academic argument, talked about encountering new people moving into her neighborhood from out of state who will ask, “How are the schools?” She said that they don’t mean, “What’s the start date of school?” A high school senior insisted the August start date made the only sense, because all students involved in fall sports or pep squad or marching band (about 20% of the students) are back in August anyway. She said, “My family hasn’t taken an August vacation since I was in middle school.”
All of the high schoolers spoke to the great stress relief of being completely done with finals prior to Winter Break and of the advantage of having three extra weeks of instruction prior to high stakes testing. A couple of the high schoolers, who will be the first in their families to go to college (one is the first high school graduate in his family), mentioned the need for that full Thanksgiving week to prepare applications since they had no parental experience with them. Finally, many spoke about the advantage of being out in early June in order to attend summer school sessions at Saddleback and other colleges.
The arguments for a post-Labor Day start were mostly around problems with air conditioning and the possible added cost of running it during August. Trustees pointed out that the air conditioning issues (which are all over the District) are a separate facilities problem that is definitely a Board priority, but that our hottest weather this year has been in September and October.
Going forward, the District has a plan in place, beginning in the spring of 2016, to collect community input regarding the 2017-18 calendar and beyond, so that all stakeholders feel heard. This will include polling by an independent polling service, small group stakeholder meetings, reconvening of the Calendar Committee, and a community forum to review poll results, and recommendations.